The year 2011 is significantly remembered for the release of several private and classified documents, which included U.S. State department diplomatic cables. Liberia as a nation is socially and morally at a crossroad following the recent revelation of a scandalous episode of nudity now widely known in Liberia as ‘Snoweleaks’ or ‘Snowegate’ which involves Edwin Melvin Snowe, Jr., a very popular lawmaker.
Snowe was removed from his position as Speaker in January 2007 following a vote of no confidence. However, on January 29, the Supreme Court ruled in Snowe's favor, describing his removal as unconstitutional.
The controversy arose when a lawyer and other advocacy groups revealed that Snowe's cash prize offered at a party hosted at his house had wooed a lady to strip naked and swim across his swimming pool.
‘Snowegate’ has been stirring up real interesting reactions from both the home and diaspora fronts despite the fact that the lady at the center of the allegation denying that she was naked when she swam:
The lady who admitted receiving US$1,000 from Montressado County District Six Representative Edwin Snowe to dance naked at the bachelor’s eve of a Liberian journalist has denied reports that she paraded stark naked at Snowe’s residence last Friday night.
Appearing on a local radio talk show yesterday afternoon, the lady, only indentified Tracy, said she wore a brown swimming suit when she paraded in the presence of invited guests.
Women groups have added their voices to the call fo Snowe's resignation while the lawmakers were busy electing their leadership at the Capitol Building. Mother Hallowangah one of the leaders of the women protesters who described Hon.Snowe's action as “a heavy sin committed by a leader” had this to say:
we are here to tell our Representative Snowe to step aside and repent of his sins as David did in the Bible. He cannot lead us while he is polluted.I am telling Providence Baptist Church if they are not lover of money, to take the lead and tell Snowe to step aside if they are serving the true and living God. They should see reason to tell Snowe to step aside from the positions in the church and repent of his sins regardless of how much money he spends in the church as father of the year or the higher tithes payer in the that church.
The political political activist, Jurah M. Sanoe wrote:
Edwin Snowe is not a private citizen, but a public servant who has served in many capacities, including the present one as lawmaker. He has made fortunes for himself from public service which is the source of his wealth.
If the alleged incident is true, it is condemnable and Snowe must publically apologize to the Liberian people and especially residents of District 5. If not, those who elected him can also start an impeachment proceeding against him. Though this may not work in our gullible society, it will serve as caveat. To influence someone to naked herself in a gathering is a public nuisance,which is condemned under our laws, especially if done in the presence of foreign nationals
Getrude Williams was much more liberal in her reaction:
God does not like ugly neither does He care too much for pretty. I do not see where Snowe went wrong. Why are you people not blaming the firl also? She was not forced into doing what she did. If she was a decent girl she would not have done this. These are some of the things that happen at a bachelor's party, that's why it is called a bachelors party. Strippers are all over the world. Speaking of Clinton's blow job, it was done in the White House and not in his private home – where can the comparison come in? And, speaking of gays, Wow, Liberia has always had gays. From the days of Tubman to now, gay men and Lesbian women are infesting the Liberian society.Edwin, let it Snowe, let it Snowe
Alston C.Armah, a student at the University of Liberia, satirically added his voice in a very classical manner by going down historical lane to unearth another scandal known as the Knuckles-gate. Knuckle-gate is a sexual scandal that rocked Liberia and inevitably ended the political career of a top government officer:
I write not to disprove what is being reported about Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe, but I write to say what I do know. Unlike some of my colleagues who have chosen to denigrate and condemn this honorable man, I choose to applaud and pay homage to him for his noble deeds.
Representative Snowe is an honorable man. He is a noble man who walks on the path of uprightness. So noble is he that he is reported to have dropped from 11th grade at the onset of our civil war, and, without completing high school, enrolled at the University of Liberia and graduated in record time.
Thanks to our porous educational system. Representative Snowe is so noble that, backed by his honestly gotten wealth, he paved his way to the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives. But, like all historical charades, he descended the post just as he had ascended.
Like Snowe like Knuckles, what’s strange? They are all, all honorable men.
Please tell the public to leave the honorable Snowe alone; let him continue with his honorable encounters. His life is worthy of emulation, and he is setting good examples from which wise young men would learn great lessons.
Even President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who had just signed the Code of Conduct for Executive Bill at the Executive Mansion had her view aired through her Press Secretary Cyrus Wleh Badio on the Snowegate issue:
The president seriously frowns on any act of immorality and she has in fact expressed that to individuals who may have been involved because she thinks it doesn’t speak well of some of the values we stand for as a country and so she frowns on it in a very serious manner
A.Darius Dillion, a political analyst, a friend and former subordinate of Snowe reacted in a more diplomatic fashion:
Firstly, I take cognizance of the fact that whether this story or incident is true or not, and even though this may be an acceptable norm at such occasions in other ‘open societies’, ours is not ‘open’ enough to stomach or embrace any news about a woman being requested or induced to “strip naked” in public for any form of reward;. Secondly, this was not a planned or generally agreed agenda item for the night. The offer put up by Mr. Snowe was something initiated and done unilaterally at his own volition, considering that it was a social event of adults. This has turned to be what we have on our hands.
In consideration of the above, and since I was not physically present around the swimming pool at the time to have personally witnessed the incident, coupled with the fact that I have seen no such tape or photo to safely counter “Tracy’s” version or concur with Mr. Dan Saryee’s information, I come neither to out rightly condemn Mr. Snowe nor praise or prop him up. I must admit that I am not only worried but deeply disappointed over his prolonged silence on this matter which may make true the maxim that says “Silence means consent”. I therefore call on him to muster the courage to issue a public statement and apology to the women of Liberia and those who felt and still do feel offended by this story; especially the manner it was told. I also call on him to extend similar apology to all his friends who have been maligned as well as those who attended the bachelor’s party held at his home. I hold the view that had Mr. Snowe taken into consideration the sensitive feelings and reactionary attitude of our society to such stories, he would have thoughtfully avoided the embarrassment we all now face. I can only hope this will serve as lesson learnt, not only to Mr. Snowe as a public official, but to all who hold or aspire to public office in our land.
Tom Monboe, a humanitarian Liberia worker, boldly pointed out the human rights dimension of the issue:
The issue involving Rep Snowe is not just a morality issue but also a human right issue. Every high-quality human being who puts premium on the dignity of another person, should be concerned that no matter one’s social or economic status, their integrity should not be mortgaged with such a degree of pomposity. When two consenting adults meet and do what they want to do privately, that's fine. But when a financial offer is made for one to nude in the company of others mainly public officials, then it translates into a blatant mindless display of arrogance of resources. And this is why those involved should get the proportional public reprimand. For posterity sake, let others who were at the event join the likes of Dan Saryeh to be the witness of public conscience to redeem themselves from this sacrilege which is a scandal of an unimaginable proportion.
After almost two weeks of enduring the scorns from different sources, the embattled politician had his say:
Representative Snowe pointed out:I am deeply troubled by the manner in which a gathering intended to celebrate the holy matrimony of a brother and friend is now being transformed into degradation of womanhood; for this, I expressed deep regrets.I have never and will never do anything to bring womanhood into disrepute, no matter their status in society.I am deeply saddened that this unfounded allegation is being sustained in the media. I have spoken to my mother who has expressed dismay over the manner in which womanhood is being brought into disrepute and disdain by this unfounded allegation. I have also spoken to my pastor and some members of my church as well as other eminent women in our society who have all expressed deep concern over this falsehood.
When quizzed to give clarification on the exact details of what occurred on the night in question, the lawmaker cleverly survived the question with these words:
I have not come to tell you people what happened that night. What I have come to say is that all that is being reported in the media over the last few weeks is false and misleading
The stage is set, echoes of reactions are popping up from every angles. There are even claims of death threats made to journalists.
Will this scandal lead to the resignation of the lawmaker or will he “walk away like Craig Davids” ( a local expression in Liberia that means walking away with impunity). Liberia's respect for morality, cultural values and norms is at a crossroad.